Africa

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Driver

Driver

Driver

Touch And Go

I'm off to Africa again tomorrow. It'll be a full day of flying: my plane leaves Brussels around 8.20 AM (which means I'll have to leave here around five-sodding-thirty) and fifty minutes later I arrive in Amsterdam. Then I have to switch planes, and I'll fly to Kigali - Rwanda's capital. Then we'll have to wait for an hour or so, and then we fly to Entebe in Uganda. There I will stay for the night, and in the morning I take a small airplane to the north-western border, to Arua. There our team will pick me up, and we should cross the border between Uganda and Congo somewhere in the afternoon. Getting back will also take me two full days, in reverse order of course.

As always, we did something fun with the kids today - it's become a tradition when daddy is going to Africa. In the summer we go to the zoo or a theme park or something. In the winter we go to an indoor playground or theme park or so. I prefer the indoor playground we went to today. It's fun both for Wolf and for Tyl, while theme parks tend to be much less interesting for babies. Also, you don't have to queu for anything. And the food is better. And last but not least, everything is way cheaper than in a theme park. Six euros entrance, € 1.70 for a coke. Multiply everything by four when you go to a theme park. Oh, and the parking is for free.

Not that I want to be cheap when it comes to showing my love for my children. But how else can I afford first class computer hardware?

Live Aid

I'm off to Ethiopia tomorrow. I've been looking forward to this trip, it's the first time I'll visit Ethiopia and the first time in years I've visited another African country than The Not At All Democratic Republic Of The Congo. Although I did pass through Uganda a couple of times to go to eastern Congo.

There's been news of an attack on a group of tourists in the north of Ethiopa yesterday. So good thing I'm going to the south.

Don't know if I'll have internet access, if not see you in two weeks time.

Featherweight

If you want to loose some weight, there's nothing better than a fine African travellers diarrhoea. Seriously, I can recommend it, you should try it when you have the chance!

Just make sure you stock up on loo rolls before the lukewarm dredge hits the proverbial fan.

Packing

First I take my underwear, generally for one week but I won't have time to do the laundry and I'll only be gone for nine days, so I take a bit more. Summer PJs, because it'll be warm, but also a sweater because at night it cools down quickly outside in eastern Congo. Then a couple of T-shirts and two polo shirts with the logo of my organisation. Three trousers with legs that I can zip off to turn them into shorts. I really should be some new ones, they're beginning to show their age.

Sandals, mustn't forget those! And a cap, to protect my head from the scorching sun; very important when one's hair is in retreat. Then it's time for the bathroom items. My toilet bag, a small towel and two washing cloths - mustn't forget to take a big towel from the closet in Wolf's room when he's sound asleep. I always forget that big towel - have to stuff it into my suitcase at the last moment.

Then it's time to fetch the medicine bag and check its contents. Sun tan lotion - although I never use it. Something against the runnings, something against headaches and fever, an antibiotic for when all else fails and doctors are far out of reach, something against terrorists and plane crashes and most importantly: a spray against mosquitoes.

Goes into the same bag: the electronics department: charger for my cell phone, charger for my iPod, webcam, headphones.

Down to the basement to delve into the camping box. Water flask, torch, compass, alarm whistle, sleeping bag, inflatable pillow and - again most importantly - mosquito net. Oh, that reminds me: mustn't forget the ball of string. You wouldn't believe the nets I weaved to hang that mosquito net from a mirror in one corner to the door and then a cross-wire to the nail in the wall and then trough the bathroom door to...

Did I pack some hankies? Oooh, this reminds me: the roll of toilet paper! Don't go to Africa without one. It's your one vital link to civilisation.

Finally something to read: three sturdy novels. Two in the big suitcase and one in the small backpack, to read on the plane. I'll stuff my photobag in my backpack too, together with my iPod. I bought new headphones today to replace the very basic fumbling things that are standard isue.

Batteries! I must recharge the batteries! Batteries for my camera! Batteries for my external flash! Batteries for my torch!

 

Tomorrow my plane takes off around 11:40 to Uganda, with a stop at Kigali, Rwanda's capital. The day after I'll fly to the border town of Arua with a local carrier, and then my colleagues will pick me up and drive me to Mahagi, where I'll stay for three days. At the end of the week, I'll fly to Kinshasa for two days of meetings. And next Tuesday I'll fly back to Europe, via Paris.

Good thing my suitcase has wheels.

How's The View Up There?

I'm leaving for Africa again next Sunday, to the increasingly Democratic Republic of Congo. So let's have some more photos of my last trip...

Kids waiting in the hospital of MushengeKids waiting in the hospital of Mushenge

Landlines are few and far between, and generally useless. But with the advent of mobile phones, things are improving fast. Here you see how those pylons are built: completely by hand and without any gimmicks such as tower cranes or trucks. A team of labourers (the guys in front) hoist the individual pieces up with those cables you see hanging down.

Another team builds the pylon. Note that they are not secured or anything. If they fall they're dead. Should they somehow survive their fall, they have to be carried on a bike to the nearest hospital. But with lack of just about anything, from medicines to anaesthetics or even skilled staff, their chances are very slim at best.

Newborn baby twin girls, who clearly know how to keep their mother busy. Look how tired she is!

Apart from medical institutions, we also visited an agricultural project. This is a field in the middle of the rain forest, where manioc seedlings are produced. Maniok is a staple food here. I tasted it on several occasions, but I can't say I like it. Generally, you get these bowls of manioc paste, or 'foufou' with your fish or chicken (if you're rich enough to pay for meat of fish). You can also eat the leaves, they taste much like spinach.

Cultivating here is no easy feat: it's an endless battle against the rain forest, that sends legions of ferns that have to be removed by hand. The man clear the forest away, the women are then responsible for the fields. It's back-breaking work, and it doesn't pay well.

Once the forest is cleared, the men mainly 'supervise'.

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